Epic Wimbledon match, inspired writing

The ongoing Isner-Mahut bout -- already Wimbledon's longest match -- might have grown dull, but one blogger didn't

Published June 23, 2010 8:24PM (EDT)

Writer Xan Brooks' first mention of the match on the Guardian's Wimbledon blog was routine enough:

2:45 p.m.: ...Nicolas Mahut and John Isner are locked in a marathon at 5-5 in the final set.

Six-and-a-half hours later, the match itself would be called because of darkness at 59-59 tied in the last set. Not only is the match -- over 10 hours spread out over two days already -- the longest of all time, the last set alone is longer than any previous match. Undoubtedly a testament to two supreme athletes -- the American Isner and the Frenchman Mahut -- by the time it was called it had devolved into an epically dull war of wills, booming serves and lumbering moves along the baseline.

The better action was really over on Brooks' blog. Checking in on his coverage throughout the afternoon proved the best ticket of the day:

4.05pm: The Isner-Mahut battle is a bizarre mix of the gripping and the deadly dull. It's tennis's equivalent of Waiting For Godot, in which two lowly journeymen comedians are forced to remain on an outside court until hell freezes over and the sun falls from the sky. Isner and Mahut are dying a thousand deaths out there on Court 18 and yet nobody cares, because they're watching the football. So the players stand out on their baseline and belt aces past each-other in a fifth set that has already crawled past two hours. They are now tied at 18-games apiece.

He had no idea the match had barely begun. Nearly two hours later, he chimes in:

6pm: The score stands at 34-34. In order to stay upright and keep their strength, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut have now started eating members of the audience. They trudge back to the baseline, gnawing on thigh-bones and sucking intestines. They have decided that they will stay on Court 18 until every spectator is eaten.

Cannibalism became an apt theme:

6.48pm: The sun is sinking and the court is a blur. It is at this stage that Zombie Isner starts to look like Zombie Mahut and the Zombie Umpire stops croaking and starts to chirrup like a grasshopper. In other words, we're here but we're gone. Is anyone still alive up in the stands or have they now all been eaten? It's 40-40. And that's games, not points

And then later:

8.40pm: It's 56 games all and darkness is falling. This, needless to say, is not a good development, because everybody knows that zombies like the dark.

A half-hour later the match was called after Mahut's complaints about the darkness. The two will be back at it tomorrow, shuffling their aching Achilles toward history. We  only wish Brooks would be, too, but sadly he claims to have the day off. Be sure to check out his whole effort.

Kerry Lauerman is Salon's executive editor. You can follow him on Twitter

By Kerry Lauerman

MORE FROM Kerry Lauerman

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Media Criticism Tennis Wall Street